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Grant Funds New Writing Project

What started as a seed grant from the Greater Houston Area Writing Project has grown into a $30,000 grant for Sam Houston State University’s English and language, literacy and special populations departments.

The Sam Houston Writing Project, a collaborative effort between the two departments that will allow students to earn six hours of graduate-level credit during an intensive 16-day workshop, is currently accepting its first official students for a summer session program, thanks to the grant through the National Writing Project.

“What it (the NWP) is is teachers teaching teachers how to write and how to motivate students to write,” said Nancy Votteler, lecturer in the language, literacy and special populations department who will also serve as a facilitator in the SHWP. “It’s a very constructivist type of learning in that what we call the teacher consultant, (someone) who has been through the writing project, will teach other teachers how to teach writing.”

The program kicked off at SHSU last summer as a pilot program, funded through a grant from the Greater Houston Area Writing Project, the University of Houston-Clear Lake’s extension of the NWP.

The pilot, with a “strong group” of nine teachers from areas covered within the Region 6 Education Service Center, was very successful, and that success led to the program being funded by the national organization to continue, according to English department chair Bill Bridges, who will also be a facilitator for the SHWP.

“The recognition we have received by being able to continue that says what we did last year worked real well,” Bridges said. “We’re excited about it.”

The program is open to teachers from the kindergarten level all the way to the university level, primarily for language arts teachers as the workshop covers writing and the teaching of writing and reading. Participants earn three hours of credit in English and three in reading.

“Those hours can be used toward recertification and can be used for graduate credit for master’s programs, both in English and in the language literacy and special populations,” Bridges said.

The workshop will be a required course for those seeking a master’s degree in reading with a reading specialization, and English students can take it as an elective, according to Votteler.

The NWP has 189 sites across the country and 12 in Texas, with the SHWP and the Bluebonnet Writing Project at the University of Texas at Arlington being the newest sites, and has a very stringent application process to bring a site to a campus, Votteler said.

“Not everybody that applies for the grant will get it,” she said. “It has to be tied to a university though; that was one of the stipulations in the National Writing Project when it was first started because the founding fathers decided that having a university attached to it made it more believable, it has clout to it.”

The program, which will begin this summer on June 24 and will run through SHSU’s second summer session from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., does three things, Votteler said.

“Teacher consultants plan the demonstration of how they teach, or how they would teach, writing in their classrooms. It’s very specific, and it’s tied to theory,” she said. “Another part is, they write three pieces, and it is published. Usually it’s one of those spiral-bound books, and we like for them to have a piece that we can send out for publication statewide or nationally.”

The last part is simply to practice and reflect on their own writing, she said.

“It’s a place for teachers to come and share their ideas and fears without fearing retribution from other colleagues from their school. It’s a place to talk about things you try in your classroom,” Votteler said. “It creates a safe haven for teachers who are reluctant writers themselves; it fosters those who are writers, it gives them an audience for their writing and to help make it better; and it creates leaders.”

A product of the GHAWP and a “reluctant writer” herself before going through the program, Votteler said she can testify to the program’s benefits.

After going through the program, the GHAWP director put her in contact with LLSP chair Mary Robbins and helped her obtain her current lecturer position at SHSU. Votteler is now completing her doctorate and recently had one of the pieces she began during the project published in a state journal for language arts teachers.

“It gives you the confidence to go on. They’re such a support group; it’s a network of teachers really,” she said. “All that I am professionally has been due to my affiliation with the National Writing Project and the National Writing Projects of Texas.”

Part of the grant allows for a tuition stipend to participants for up to $1,000 for public school teachers.

“We’re trying to help them strengthen their skills, and in order to do that, we’re trying to facilitate their return to campus,” Bridges said.

If the program’s success continues this year, SHSU can apply for a renewal grant of up to $45,000, which would enable the program to become even more “extensive” by going out into school districts and actually conducting in-services in local districts, as well as working with individual classes and teachers, Bridges said.

“I certainly think it is a prestigious thing for us to have; not every project site is funded, and they’re designed to meet, in a workshop atmosphere, a maximum of 20 teachers, so we’re not talking about a whole lot of teachers statewide,” he said. “It’s a good thing for us to have, and I feel very fortunate that we’ve received it and that we’ve had this recognition.”

Participants must go through and application and interview process before they are granted entry into the workshop.

Those interested in attending this summer can contact Bridges at 936.294.1402, by e-mail at or through the English department’s Web site at




SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt
March 10, 2006
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